NEA RA. Common Core, common sense and common ground.

When I voted with the majority in favor of a New Business Item that called for an end to assessments driven by Common Core standards, I thought about the relationship of standards to high stakes tests.

When the NEA Representative Assembly began, I overestimated the degree to which there would be debate on the RA floor over the Common Core standards.

I did not make that same mistake when it came to the degree of anger over the use and misuse of standardized testing, both in general and testing driven by Common Core implementation.

There have been several New Business Items that condemned high stakes testing in one form or another. All of them passed by big majorities.

In an earlier post I tried to analyze the differences among classroom educators when it came to the Common Core. I would say that the second group, those who accept the Common Core standards – for all of their problems – but who want the tools and support to implement the standards well make up the overwhelming majority.

The way I look at it is that delegates here in Atlanta have a common sense approach to the Common Core.  However, they reject the destructive consequences of high stakes testing on students and their misuse as tools when doing teacher performance reviews and evaluations.

I am aware that there is a problem when we begin to  separate standards from curriculum, instruction, evaluation and assessments.

In fact, Curriculum, Instruction and Evaluation is printed on top of my masters degree.

However, the NEA Representative Assembly is not a masters program. It is a very large business meeting, where policy is voted on by 7,000 people looking for common ground.

From my point of view, the resolutions on high stakes testing represent a strong stand by members of my union. And the best that could have come out of this meeting.

Anthony Cody, an educator who I greatly respect, writes this afternoon that the attempt by the NEA and AFT leadership to divide Common Core from its testing component is an error and a slippery slope.

I think we would be better off taking a position that exposes the Common Core standards and associated tests for what I believe them to be. Get off defense and mount a strong offense that exposes what is going on here. An effort to refresh the phony indictment of our schools as failures, in order to open up the market for semi-private charters, virtual charters, and vouchers for private and parochial schools. Collaborating on implementation with the promise of a fight when the tests arrive is like buying a lemon and hoping the mechanic can fix it later.

I agree with Cody.

But nobody should confuse the leadership of the two unions with the thousands of teachers and educators that are gathered here. They have chosen to address the Common Core one way and assessments and high stakes testing in another way.

They have done that for reasons that make common sense.

The NBI #35 that was passed this afternoon states:

In states where Common Core will be implemented the NEA will support and provide guidance to affiliates in advocating for a common sense plan that respects student learning time, limit the reliance on and investment in high stakes standardized tests and decreases the reliance on Common Core related tests in evaluating teacher performance.

And as teacher and union activist on the floor, I thought that was pretty damn good.

7 thoughts on “NEA RA. Common Core, common sense and common ground.

  1. The reality on the ground is not always the best perspective in war or in the NEA RA. The CCSS is indeed a slippery slope maneuvered by weary troops who want and need help surviving. The majority of members (good, obedient teachers all) are making a poor choice that all will have to live with for years to come.

  2. The latest gimmick in the roller coaster we have been on for the last two decades. Meanwhile, test scores continue to disappoint, and good people are driven away from education. Something isn’t working!

  3. Fred, Thankb you for the update from a delegate who could not attend because my father was scheduled for cancer surgery, had it then needed a triple by pass to prevent his death two days later.NBI 35 is a little tricky. Local school districts must come up with local tests to prove student growth. Teachers are tasked with this job, during the summer (in my district just for Math) and during the year for other subjects. Arne, with his race to the top, then fall off cause there’s no where else to go, had many states write into law that 30% of evaluations would be related to testing. If teachers in separate districts are writing the tests, how is this fair? If it is the state test and students live in poverty and haven’t eaten, compared to students who have air conditioning at home and at school and private tutoring how is this fair? We may know the goal, to privatize many school and try to make money from them but in the mean time, what motivation does a student have to do well on a test? a grade? passing to the next grade level? I’ve taught for over 23 years and some students take no interest in tests while others who are very capable and intelligent, fret and cry during tests, therefore failing the test.

    When doctors take your temperature and blood pressure, the patient can not cheat. When a blood test is given, it is analyzed. Analyzing children has a motivation factor and now that they know their teachers jobs are on the line and parents know our salaries which are online…would they not fill in bubbles at random or just watch the student who is crying because they can’t solve a problem (which i have witnessed) instead of being in the best of health and best emotional state taking the test. In Sweden, they laughed when they heard we give standardized tests before high school. We recognize that Sweden has an excellent educational system. Why are Duncan and state governors pushing us to do the opposite of what is done in Sweden?

    Also why in Illinois is Kindergarten not required if we have Common Core Standards that must be met at this age, A child can enter Kindergarten, or any other grade, from another state, maybe not a Common Core state, and then have to take the Illinois test which counts negatively against their teacher/s even though they have not taught the student for very long. There are TOO many variables for a HIgh Stakes Test..did the child sleep, are they sick and at school, did their parent just die? None of these things would affect a CT scan of their brain to see if they have cancer, but all of these and more affect whether a teacher is fired. We don’t control their home life and things happen even to first graders. Please keep NEA strong AGAINST high stakes test..as they are unfair for these reasons and others. Thank you. Kathleen

  4. I agree with Ken. I don’t think most understand the connections that you and Cody are making about the true purposes of Common Core. The NEA and AFT leadership should be educating the membership and calling people out on the truth instead of yet again “collaborating for a seat at the table.”

  5. Some of the worst aspects of CCSS are the wretched books and materials being churned out by Pearson, et al. It is all canned curriculum and worksheets – hardly the way to teach higher-order thinking skills or encourage a love of learning.

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